So we had a chat.
Who wants to write something about the Keates era? It turns out we all did.
Free reign, no pre-set questions – 4 guys sum up their view of the Dean Keates era and whilst they’re all pretty different there are common threads running through.
As usual it’s a
cup flask of tea and a few packet of biscuits long so strap in, turn the phone off and here we go. All comments at the bottom are most welcome.
So what have we actually learned then??? Some thoughts about the sacking of Dean Keates.
Past – Cosy and Insular
It’ll be 25 years in September since the surprise sacking of Kenny Hibbitt and the equally surprising appointment of Chris Nicholl as his successor. A quarter of a flippin’ century since the first managerial change at our club under Jeff Bonser’s ownership. As a director since 1988 he must’ve been a part of the appointment of Hibbitt and John Barnwell but this was his first crack at making arguably the most important on-field decision at a football club.
Since then all but one of the 12 subsequent permanent managers have fitted into one of these categories:
Played for the club – Paul Merson, Kevin Broadhurst (briefly), Chris Hutchins, Dean Smith, Dean Keates (and we can add Martin O’Connor for the time being too)
Promoted from within – Merson, Jimmy Mullen, Smith and Jon Whitney (plus MOC)
Available and living locally – Jan Sorensen, Colin Lee, Broadhurst and Sean O’Driscoll. (This was also Mullen’s status when he arrived as Assistant.)
Recommended by a predecessor – Sir Ray was a former team-mate of Nicholl who’d also done some coaching when he was in charge, O’Driscoll had worked closely with outgoing number 2 Richard O’Kelly
Only Richard Money is exempt from the pattern but interestingly, like Nicholl, he was the only appointment made with the club in the fourth tier.
Accusations of the cosy and insular nature of the club aren’t helped by an examination of our backroom staff either. Mart O’Connor himself has now had 3 different roles at the club to go with 4 spells (2 permanent and 2 loans) as a player. O’Kelly was Smith’s number 2 twice, Smith himself originally returned to head up the Youth set up, Dean Holden has had two brief coaching spells, Jimmy Walker was Goalkeeping Coach for a time, a role also filled ably by Mick Kearns. Nicholl has returned behind the scenes twice in 2001 and 2011, Whitney and Mick Halsall had more than one role at times and the hugely unpopular Paul Taylor was brought back by Jeff at what felt like the first available opportunity. Oh and David Kelly graced us with his presence for one whole game too.
Ok so there is an argument that the seemingly high return rate to the club, reflected in player turnover too, shows an affinity and affection for the Saddlers and that actually should be celebrated. (Let’s face it, it’s unlikely to be for financial reasons.)
But there are bigger questions that no fan can be blamed for asking.
- What does this tell us about a club’s board that like to do things their own way?
- What does it say about being open and receptive to new ideas?
- What does it say about appeasing fans?
- What does it say about being prepared for a bit of constructive criticism or home truths from the manager, who is after all the person at the club most in the firing line?
Present/Recent Past – Club Legend
Thankfully the bits of Social Media that I’ve seen since the weekend have overwhelmingly shown respect and sympathy for Dean Keates’ plight. Quite rightly fans want to remember DK for his performances on the pitch, the promotions, the silverware, the cup runs, the never-say-die attitude, the tenacity, the commitment, the wand of a left foot and perhaps most importantly the passion and pride every time he pulled on a Walsall shirt.
The fact that he was sacked almost immediately after the final whistle and on Club Legends Day (with former teammates sat in the stands) too made Dean’s departure all the more gut-wrenching. However I think that it speaks volumes for the character of Dean that, like any 50-50 (or 40-60 and the odd 30-70) tackle as a player, he didn’t shirk the challenge of managing Walsall and trying to move the club out of its current state of mediocrity.
Last March Dean was in his first full season at Wrexham, they were chasing the play-offs at a crucial stage of the season and, as they’ve had a long spell out of the League, was potentially on the verge of writing himself into their record books as a manager. It would have been easy for him to say it was too soon (as hindsight says it was) and to stay on at the Racecourse.
It was also a pretty desperate situation for a young, inexperienced manager to come into, we were in freefall down the league, the squad left behind by Jon Whitney (another guy who’d refused to turn his back on a challenge when he could’ve stayed in his comfort zone and preserved his cult status with the fans) was a mess and he would’ve known that there were certain players he’d be stuck with. And that’s before we consider the less-than-competitive playing budget that seems to have become the norm at the club.
Yet Dean Keates took it on, kept us up, put together the best squad he could and tried to give the team some form of identity. And for a couple of months it seemed to be working but when the wheels came off they came off big time. If you ever wondered in 2017/18 what the team would be like without Oztumer carrying it, then most of the performances from Xmas onwards gave you a pretty good idea. Sadly Dean didn’t have the experience to turn it round. He was dealt a rough hand but he never complained and he gave it his all.
Dean Keates is rightly considered a Saddlers legend as a player, he ought to be considered one for ever bothering to take on the role of manager too.
Future – The Interview Process
While I think we all know who has the final say, I’d love to know what the process will be, who’ll be doing it, what the job spec actually is and what the criteria for success will be.
But I’d like to think that any candidate worth having ought to be the one asking the question. I’d be asking about the budget, scouting and the youth set up.
The budget – Everyone in football knows it’s one of the lower ones in League One and allegedly it doesn’t compare well with plenty in League Two, but a prospective boss ought to be entitled to ask exactly how the club are going to take steps to improve it. Dean Smith was allowed to come up with his own blueprint and that seemed to work right up to the point that he left us in the lurch and the whole thing unravelled.
For a club with a fine and proud record of producing great young players, the production line seems to have ground to a worrying halt atm. Liam Kinsella and Liam Roberts are the only home-grown players to have played regularly this season. Kinsella made his debut in 2014 and has been with the club since his dad played for us over a decade ago, Roberts first signed a professional contract in 2014.
Sadly the answer to the question ‘Where are the next generation?’ is, with the exception of the unfortunate Kory Roberts, out on loan at local non-league clubs. Ideal preparation if you’re operating at Conference North level, but Walsall FC aren’t, not at the moment anyway.
The Reserves no longer play in a League, meaning the natural pathway to the first team is no longer there. This also has a negative impact for out of form fringe players who end up with nowhere to go – would Morgan Ferrier have benefitted from half a dozen games tormenting a second-string defence for example?
For the best part of two decades we had a youth system headed up by an ex-pro with experience, and presumably contacts, from other clubs. Mick Halsall was coveted by many others, Dean Smith was able to go on to better things and Neil Woods was well-respected. Since then the club promoted from within someone who’d never played the game professionally or worked anywhere else. No disrespect is meant but when you move from a system that works and the system stops working, questions need to be asked.
Which brings me on to the role of John Ward – wtaf is it to be precise. Brought in weeks before Smith doing a runner, Ward has now seen four managers depart. He’s clearly not seen as permanent manager material, or even as a caretaker – he only filled in as part of the triumvirate after Smith left and then it was Whitney who came to the forefront. Ward manages a reserve team that don’t play in a league and there has not been a single player come through to command, or even a challenge for, a first team place in the 3½ years he’s been at the club. It’s been suggested that he’s been an experienced sounding board for both Jon Whitney and Dean Keates- well that’s worked out well hasn’t it? What is the point of him being here? I can’t be the only one to think there is a parallel between him and a certain P.Taylor.
And what if we do find someone who can achieve some real success (ie more than just surviving at a level we’ve historically competed at longer than anyone else?) Our track record in this area is shocking – Ray Graydon was treated appallingly, Richard Money quickly worked out his ambitions were vastly different and, whatever we think of what he did and how he did it, Smith could see the writing on the wall.
With hindsight Dean Keates should’ve saved himself the bother and stopped at Wrexham and let the inevitable happen to someone else.
Back to the future we go.
After we lost to AFC Wimbledon in February, Gabriel Sutton of the excellent The Football Lab blog, wrote:
The position that a section of Walsall fans perhaps like to think they could be in, is not necessarily the same position that budget dictates to be their mean. That is perfectly natural, because there would be no point in football if supporters were not passionate about their club and wanted it to strive for something better. The flip side to that is it means many Saddlers managers have to slightly overachieve to be perceived as doing a par job and massively overachieve to be seen as doing a good one.
If we look at Walsall’s Expected Goals Ratio of 46.5% (before Tuesday’s game), that leaves them as the 17th-best performing team in League One – which is where they are currently in the table having played a game more. In terms of budget, they have the 17th highest attendances – and below them, Scunthorpe (due to Peter Swann), Fleetwood (Andy Pilley) and Burton (Championship income) are likely to have spent more. Of course, a run of two league wins in 17 is highly concerning and certainly, it is important the coaching team find a system to reduce the burden on Cook. Although a deserved defeat to the bottom side is hard to take, this blog would understand but disagree with the notion that it means there is anything fundamentally wrong at the club.
All of the numbers point towards our being an average, League 1 club. We have always been an average, League 1 club. We should accept that we are and always will be an average, League 1 club. We are told we are well run. We are told we punch above our weight. We are Walsall; Walsall we are. We know the numbers can tell us everything and nothing, devoid of context.
What was the context in which Dean Keates returned to Walsall? Years of stagnation in League 1; years of an apparent lack of investment rooted in the conservatism of the board following the intersecting realities of relegation from the Championship and the collapse of ITV Digital; the inability to instigate any kind of strategy to win over the supporters; years of apparent disconnection between the board and supporters; a rundown and both tired-looking and feeling ground on an out-of-town ring road; too few afternoons or nights of glory in over a decade; on-going and persistent failures of managerial appointments; a failure to create a meaningful scouting network or sustainable youth policy; years of being run by an apparently disconnected majority shareholder, who must be tired after over 30 years of this.
It was an impossible context. It was a context compounded by the inability of the majority shareholder to uncover a potential diamond of a novice manager in the mould of the heroic ex-player like Alan Buckley, or the gnarled old professional like Chris Nicholl (attempted again with O’Driscoll?), or the relatively anonymous but cheap Graydon or Coakley. The more I look at our appointments over the years I feel that we have succeeded more by luck than judgement – and maybe this is one of the truths of football at our level when there is such a managerial merry-go-round. The successes we have had grounded in the intersection of luck, a strong team ethic, clear patterns of play, and the connection between youth and experience.
Dean Keates had none of these. Yet Bonser chased him from two divisions below, unproven, but a reminder of past glories under this regime. The supporters generally lauded this approach, desperate and projecting every moment of that desperation onto Keates, a factor that Keates himself amplified by talking about providing a team of whom the town could be proud. We were all too invested in the idea of the heroic leader and yet the structures available simply wouldn’t support this. It wasn’t hubris – there was no self-confidence or overweening pride here. Rather, we hadn’t really done our due diligence, and we let the heart rule the head, and we let the heart tell the head that a managerial team from the National League could take over a club that had been stripped on the playing side since our failed play-off push, with a make do and mend approach implemented instead, and could be “successful”.
Whilst Sutton may be incorrect in thinking that nothing is fundamentally wrong at the club (given the number of questionable strategic and operational decisions, and the fact that accountability lies at the level of Walsall FC Ltd, rather than Walsall FC), there is something important in his point about what we as fans expect success to look like. Yet even here, Keates blew what possibilities and potentialities he had. The potential energy of the squad that he had at his disposal was wasted. The endless changes in formation, in order to try to halt ongoing losing streaks; the apparent falling out with players who would give their all at this level like Kinsella and Morris; the apparent falling out with players he had recruited like Ferrier; the almost constant changing of the guard in central midfield; the failure after early successes to outthink opponents, either tactically or in terms of substitutions; the reduction of play to long ball policies the overused Cook; the inability to tie the movement of Ginnelly, Ferrier, Zeli and Morris to meaningful patterns of play, in part because the defence was so fragile; the inability to create a defensive platform and the obsession with an ineffective 4-3-3; and on, and on.
So we have a litany of failures on the playing side. The first time in years we have a scouting network in place and yet our acquisition of loan signings has generally been a failure because they have been left to warm the bench. Players who excelled elsewhere, like Kane Wilson at Exeter, and Conor Ronan at Portsmouth, were unable to make a mark. Keates was unable to improve recruitment to reinforce the defence, and this was critical. Starting the season with a defence that we already doubted was a real issue. He was unable to find a midfield platform that would support that defence, or enable the possibilities we had in attack to flourish. As a result, Kinsella was marginalised and Dobson was asked to do too much, and both were outrageous because both will likely play at a higher level. As a side note, I wonder why a diminutive, cognitive midfielder and former hero-come-local-boy, would seek to marginalise players who mirrored him.
Keates was unable to build a team in his own image, or to recruit players who were battle-hardened. Perhaps it would have been different if we hadn’t lost key personnel – Kory Roberts to injury and Josh Ginnelly to Preston. It makes me realise just how over-reliant we were on Oz last year for survival, and just how lucky we were to have him, and just how wasted he has been at Bolton. Perhaps it would have been different if we hadn’t had such delayed recruitment in pre-season. Perhaps we all got carried away in the opening month or so of the season. Perhaps we didn’t see just how badly the wheels were going to come off after we got hammered at home by Doncaster Rovers. If only we could have found another way of playing when the chips were down, other than the long ball to Cook – the overreliance on a target man as the sole outlet, rather than the creative maestro is telling.
Beyond this inability to build a team, was his and his backroom team’s inability to train them appropriately. Our goal difference, goal scored and goals conceded are abysmal. We score every 84 minutes at an average of 1.07 per game. We concede every 55 minutes at an average of 1.65 a game. We concede 23% of our goals in the first 20 minutes (and score 16% of our goals in this period). By the half hour mark, we have conceded almost a third of our goals and scored 23%. We are abysmal away and we are abysmal at home – we have no hiding place or sanctuary. We don’t score; we are always chasing the game; we are not built to chase games; we have no creativity; we have no creative outlet because our defence is so weak; we are built, trained and managed to fail. As a result, Keates’ only consistency lay in losing streaks, and a failure to build confidence rooted in winning or keeping clean sheets.
So, I can’t help feeling that jump from the National League to League One was too much without a more experienced backroom staff. Keates may have been the man to pull the fan base together, but whether he was the right man at the wrong time is a moot point. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe the structures of the club continue to be fundamentally a problem for any potential manager. The only coherent narrative at Walsall appears to be stagnation in this division rooted in limited resources and almost constant managerial and playing overhaul. It’s exhausting. The failure of Dean Keates at Walsall represents that exhaustion.
For a while I have thought that the period from our promotion under Richard Money until now mirrored the period from 1963-79, when after we fell back into Division Three we burnt through managers and did nothing until relegation to Division Four. Then, of course, we had the Buckley bounce. I fear there will no such luck this time. I fear the incoherent management and disconnection from the fans; I fear the disconnect with the needs of the supporters for success, whatever that looks like; I fear the lack of a strategy. This is what I take from Dean Keates year or so in charge. An impossible job with impossible hopes, compounded by an inability to manage, recruit, train and problem solve. The lesson of our hail-Mary appointment of Dean Keates is that League 1 looks increasingly beyond us.
So here we are again. I have tried, in the last few days, to reconcile the last few years as somewhat of a repeating cycle:
Employ unproven manager with little to no track record and then ask them to work with a weak budget.
I thought this (a repeating cycle) was a reasonable metaphor for what’s going or gone on, however upon further introspections – I was wrong.
What we have here is a downward spiral of gross ineptitude, ignorance, apathy and shame. A cycle repeating itself suggests stability and equilibrium. Righting a wrong, LEARNING FROM IT, and then building back up.
What we have here is the opposite of that. The board are continually making bad decisions, not learning from past mistakes and leaving this writer wondering just how far we might fall.
What on Earth have we become?
How Stefan Gamble and Dan Mole can sit there and state “the aim is to get to the championship” is an insult to the intelligence of every single supporter of this great football club.
I could equally state that my aim is to befriend an 8-legged cocker-spaniel called Brian and fly to the moon on the back of a winged Zebra called Hephaestus. It’s not going to happen is it?
I don’t actually put all the blame on Keates. Sure, he is largely culpable for this desperate set of results over the last 6 months – but I can’t ignore the large millstone around his neck with regards the budget and the lack of any coherent plan. That comes from above.
I am above suspicion, in believing that he could not possibly believe how many players from the Whitney era were still contracted to the club. As I am suggesting, I think the total mismanagement of the first team under Jon Whitney’s tenure was part of this spiral. That should have ended a lot sooner than it was allowed to carry on for. It’s easy to blame Jon for that, but the fault once again sits with the board and our leader.
They passively let this happen.
As an aside, I also do not believe – for one second- that Dean would have wanted an overweight footballer from Forest Green who had played one game all season. I think this is evidence of the lack of budget for any competitive players. I also do not believe he wanted all these loan signings – he said as much in pre-season.
This leads me on to some of the players at the club. Nicky Devlin, Jon Guthrie, Luke Leahy – hang your heads in shame. You are the senior pros in that side – and have been part of the worst Walsall defence in our generation. You’re not as good as I suspect you think you are, and I cannot wait to move on from watching the same repeating mistakes every week. I am sick to death of it. Sure, others have been equally as inept – but this defence is abysmal.
So where does that leave us now? I feel sorry for Skip. He’s been put in the unenviable position of trying to sort this mess out with hardly any time to implant anything major. That said, what I expect is the players to be motivated and try. This is a bit of a controversial topic for myself, as I think being motivated should be a prerequisite for any professional football player. The fact they appear to have downed tools this season is a complete joke. Shame on them.
I have been scathing here, but these things need to be said. I haven’t spoken much about Dean because I think it’s just too sad.
One thing that has not happened in both JW and DK’s tenures is the emergence of youth prospects. We signed Mussa in January – where has he gone? Who is next on the conveyor belt from the youth team?
Jon Whitney mismanaged Hayles-Docherty, Candlin and others – DK showed a lack of any intent to blood in youngsters. I think it’s probably down to Dean not trusting them, but we built the club around our youth system under Dean Smith. This has fallen badly by the way side – and that needs addressing vehemently in the summer.
This leads me to the next appointment. I want the club to break this cycle, and appoint someone completely unconnected to the club, whom understands the lower leagues, whom believes in youth, and can find bargains in non-league and beyond. Basically, Paul Hurst.
Not Martin O’Connor.
The final thing to say is Dean will always be a club legend – that is for sure, but the one thing I want to forget forever is this:
Cameron Norman for Zeli Ismail when losing at home to 10 man Oxford.
4. Daz F
So clearly, it just wasn’t meant to be. It was one jump just a little too far for a man who during every stint in a Walsall shirt proved to be an expert leaper.
Too small? No.
Not good enough? No.
Will professional football be too physical? No
Will he struggle to bridge the 3rd level to 2nd level gap? No.
Is defeat an option? No
Are we going to settle for the L2 runners up spot? Fuck no.
Late on Saturday, with us struggling to even look capable of nicking an equaliser it dawned on me that Keates might not survive the summer recess. I’d been convinced that we’d left changing the manager too late for this season and irrespective of what division we were in Keates would get the opportunity to make head-roads into the opening skirmishes for 2019/20.
Then came Oxford’s job-killing 3rd. Irrespective of the fact that this was a goal conceded predominantly by chasing that elusive game leveller, the savage impact on the manager’s career wasn’t lost. I mentioned to those around me that might just finish Keates off and for about the first time in 25 years Jeff and I were clearly thinking along similar lines – which is very worrying. On a day where on-pitch direction and organisation were all over the place, Jeff unshielded his axe and swung mercilessly. He’d seen enough and whilst it had unquestionably been looming, the swiftness of the decision only added to the shock. Before the stadium was empty, Keates was gone.
I’m not going to lie, I desperately wanted Keates to succeed and unquestionably gave him significantly more rope than most Walsall managers. I knew the development of young players didn’t feel right, I knew that a player who gave us great service was essentially levered out, I knew our transfer activity was hopeless, I knew we weren’t improving individually or collectively, I knew he didn’t know his best team or formation, I knew we were hopeless at defending set pieces, gave penalties away like confetti and found clean sheets rarer than a dry floor in the Banks’s toilets. All of which I criticised Jon Whitney heavily for but never once posted similar sentiment at Keates. He’s a Walsall icon, he game me everything he had more than 250 times, he took me places I’d never been and he scored that goal. In my head I think I knew but it was my heart that always judged him. He’d earned the benefit of my doubt.
Similarly, the squad he inherited gave him breathing space. Oztumer was effectively checked out when Keates arrived and with his ace already in someone else’s pack he desperately needed a fresh deck. The post-play off reactive contract deals limited that opportunity and ridiculously Keates began the season with the same back four that wasn’t anywhere near good enough for most of the season before. Cook & Zeli apart, new signings arrived late, very late. and any opportunity Keates had to shape us in pre-season was long gone.
Did Keates hold his nerve and get the players he wanted or did he end up having to make do with what was left? I suspect that hindsight has answered this for us. That miracle first month impressively masked deficiencies that never really went away.
As history has proved so often, the January transfer window was another absolute catastrophe. Whilst we were crying out for a midfielder who could contribute a few goals to the control that Kinsella and Dobson provided and a goalkeeper good enough to facilitate a rest for Liam Roberts we accumulated everything but.
Up front Mitchell Candlin had returned from an unsuccessful trail at Blackburn but his path to our first team became further blocked by Aramide Oteh’s 4 month stint of bench warming. Out wide we downgraded Morris & Ginnelly for Corey Blackett-Taylor (who has done OK) plus the one cross a month and inevitably injured Matt Jarvis. Midfield has been ‘bolstered’ by Omar Musa’s 3 minutes of first team action, whilst Scott Laird and Cameron Norman have been unable to oust the players they were bought in to challenge. The nonsense re-signing of Jack Fitzwater, days after replacing him with Dan Scarr, probably tops everything however, taking our loan contingent beyond what can be selected each week and essentially ending Conor Johnson’s contribution to our season. Both Johnson and Fitzwater looked much better than any of the other options we’ve seen at centre back yet we’ve utilised neither, which has been ridiculous.
On other platforms I’ve described our January activity as Mersonesque but the benefit of hindsight suggests that I’m thinking that I might have been slightly harsh. On Merson.
And whilst on the subject of transfers I don’t buy the notion that he’s spent more than other Walsall managers because the model we operate by has clearly changed. Keates had a budget and spent it, just as Whitney, Smith and those before them. Makris was the first of the new era – pay a transfer fee & control wages. If it doesn’t work out cut your losses on a player whose wage doesn’t frighten others.
Whilst the lack of a credible goalkeeping option to Roberts was his biggest error inwards, the sale of Josh Ginnelly was unquestionably his greatest mistake in the opposite direction. The slump may have begun before Gino departed but we’re not the only teams to have ended games with Pompey, Luton, Charlton and Doncaster empty handed. Ginnelly was our outlet, a player with whom the ball stuck and had the ability to move us 15 or 20 yards up the field. His delivery into the box was decent and he epitomised the vibe that excited us all in late autumn. I get Ginnelly would have wanted to go but he was contracted to us, sulking would’ve ended Championship ambition and he could’ve signed a pre contract with PNE on Feb 1st anyway. However much Preston forked out for his services it was nothing in comparison to what it cost Keates, because he lost his job on the back of it.
That said, there are many remaining players who need to take a long and deep look at themselves. I can forgive the lack of ability – if you’re not good enough then you’re not good enough – but defeat has been an all-too easy option for more than a few. Maybe I’ve been spoiled over the years by the likes of Keates, Viveash, Marsh, Rammell, Green and Walker but the dressing room might have been a more challenging place had a few of these been 20 years younger. Only Cook, Dobson, Kinsella, Gordon, Devlin and Leahy show any semblance of disgust at defeat or goal concession. As a team, conceding should be far more unaccepted than it is. I’d suggest it’s because they aren’t paid enough or their contracts aren’t long enough to care but neither were the older players mentioned. They just did.
I also doubt many of the above had their manager on their Xmas card list either, but they still produced for him. Every single fucking week. And none would’ve had the bare faced nerve to ‘like’ the social media post confirming their manager’s exit either, which in itself was utterly outrageous. I very much look forward to liking the social media post when we confirm we’re not renewing that particular player’s contract because he’s finished in my eyes.
In the end it all became a painful watch. Keates short of ideas and long on players waiting to jump ship. He has appeared crestfallen, almost broken for quite a while now, unable to turn what became an all-encompassing tide of disappointment and defeat. In his playing days he’d have run further, tackled more and fought harder but, from the sidelines, he can only do this through his players and this just hasn’t happened. They either can’t change, don’t want to change or Keates didn’t know how to.
15 defeats in the last 21 games, conceding an average of more than 2 goals per game over that period inescapably dreadful, especially in a results driven business. For those not around in 1989/90 it’s like that Sunderland sandwich run (15 defeats on the spin) with the win at Gillingham and a decent fortnight softening the desperation. Having to score 2 or 3 per game just to get a draw is unsustainable both in terms of league status and managerial job security, especially when you’re averaging a smidgen over 1 every 90 minutes across the same period.
Similarly, you can’t ignore how weak our substitutions and tactical changes have been. Always late, rarely effective and on the whole reactive rather than proactive it’s an area of the game that Keates will need to improve when he gets his next managerial opportunity.
A bit of luck might also help because there hasn’t been much of it going his way of late. The travesty of Barnsley’s win, Doncaster’s opener, ridiculous penalties here, there & just about everywhere to name but a few. However, you make your own luck. Convert late spot kicks at Blackpool & Peterborough and you get the three points lost against Barnsley straight back.
And so he’s gone, the man I think we all wanted to succeed leaves prematurely, burned by a season he just couldn’t turn around. What started off so brightly, concluded depressingly dismally and we find our season perched somewhere between the ending of the Italian Job and Thelma & Louise. Either way it doesn’t look great.
Time will heal emotions and I hope that when the dust settles we remember that Dean gave up a decent job to come here and attempt to give us and him the team and club that we all wanted. His team, our team. He didn’t get anywhere near achieving this but I doubt it was for the want of trying. Lack of effort is something you could never level at Dean Keates.